Monday, October 12, 2015

We're Down With OP: A Review of Pumpkin Hollow at Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead

*Just an FYI for readers who have been with me since day 1: These posts are meant to inform the families currently stationed at Leavenworth, as well as those who will arrive in the coming years. It's a challenge to know what's worth it and what's not when you only live somewhere for 11 months. These are just my opinions on local events and activities and will hopefully guide families in making educated choices on how to spend their time here. 
The Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead (named for the first female police officer in Kansas to die in the line of duty), has kicked off its annual Pumpkin Hollow event. The fun and games will continue daily until Saturday, October 31st. Located in Overland Park, Kansas, it's a solid 45 minute drive from Ft. Leavenworth with about 3 large construction zones along the route. However, we have been almost every day except Saturday and we've never lost more than a minute or 2 in these zones.

Admission to the farmstead is free Monday - Thursday and $2 per person Friday - Sunday. Parking is free and ample, even on a busy Saturday. There is a cafe near the entrance where you can purchase snacks, drinks and ice cream and a concession stand in the back (near the pigs, turkeys, butterfly garden) where you can buy brown bag lunches. For kids, the brown bags include a hotdog or pb&j (an Uncrustable), chips, gummy snack, drink and a small, plastic farm animal for $5.00. Although I don't love the nutrition values in the sandwich, we only visit about once every couple of months and it's a treat that he'll stop and eat when there are so many things to do other than eat lunch. For adults, there is a similar brown bag meal that can include a pretty tasty BBQ or turkey sandwich, chips and a drink (no toy, sadly). While you are not allowed to bring outside food into the farmstead, you can use one of the many picnic tables (most with shade) near the parking lot to eat anything you brought. And re-admission to the farm after lunch is easy.

In general, we adore the farmstead, especially as a family who doesn't have easy access to local farms. It's a phenomenal and educational experience for everyone. And I could easily spend an entire post describing the many activities available just on the farm, but for now, I'm going to stick to Pumpkin Hollow, their annual autumn event that begins on the other side of the ponds, just past the playgrounds.

The thrill of October begins right at the front gate with an enormous inflated black cat (whose head moves side to side, much to the delight of our son) and some banjo-picking good-ole skeletons. There are several other Halloween-themed inflatables around the entrance. Near the front restrooms, there is a haunted train with a vampire who raises and lowers out of his coffin. There are also several ghosts which, apparently, look a lot like punching bags to any boy under the age of 34.
Signs for everything will guide your way as soon as you enter. There is also a large map to the right of this sign. If you get lost on the farm, you are doing it wrong. So hang a left after the gate and continue down the path, past the playgrounds, over the bridge and hang a right. You'll see the Pumpkin Hollow admission booth on the right.
Goats on the left...
Now, let's go ahead and announce the purple elephant in the room so you can either quit reading now or see what all of that money gets you. Admission into Pumpkin Hollow is $8 per person and children under 1 are free. Do I think $8 is a little steep? Yes. Is that crazy talk for many of the 5-8 person families on post? Definitely.
8 x  8 = 64
64 > reasonable for a couple of hours climbing on hay bales

And that's not even common core math. BUT that price includes a horse-drawn wagon ride to and from the games (reins are wrapped in bells so you can jingle all the way) and a pumpkin of your choosing. OK so a family of 8 gets 8 pumpkins, like it or not. But hey...
8 pumpkins = canned pumpkin for life

In a perfect world, you could pay less (say $4 per person) and opt out of the pumpkin. But that's probably more bookkeeping than is physically feasible on a gorgeous, fall Saturday in October.  So, just to make sure we are all on the same page, if you go to Pumpkin Hollow on a Friday - Sunday, it will be $10 per person. Now you can't say I didn't warn you.

One of the benefits of being a 3-person family with 1 person in school 90% of the time is that this only cost us $16 but our neighbors paid $32. So, let's see what that gets you....
Aforementioned hay ride. The only rule is that kids have to sit in the middle, adults can sit on the edge. But I've learned from growing up on the river that you never let your legs dangle so it's the center for me, too. I'm not sure if Sharp's is volunteering their services or being paid (that could be part of your admission cost) but the driver was friendly and helpful, especially with getting little ones on and off the wagon.

A staff member is there to greet the group, give you a little lay of the land and remind you that it's best to save the pumpkin picking for the end. Also, there are no bathrooms out here. Just so ya know. Then the gate is closed behind you and the festivities can begin!

We visited on a Tuesday morning shortly after they opened. It was overcast but warm and we had maybe 10 other families in the field with us. I imagine that it gets a little nuts on the weekends so I would strongly suggest doing this during the week, if you can....especially if you have very little ones or they are timid around other kids. Also, I think maybe the max age on this would be about 8 or 9. This is the perfect autumn activity for toddlers, up to about 7 years old. If you have kids in a wide range of ages, there is something for everyone, but it's definitely geared more toward the younger ones.
"Horse" riding. Three wooden horses, in graduated size, are fitted with saddles and ready for adventure.

Connect 4. Or 6. Or 7. I thought this would be a bit of a bust but since we have the game at home, Blue took right to it and stayed for a little longer than I thought he would. (For reference, he's 39" tall.)

Shoe Golf. This is one of those things I'm just going to file under Genius Ideas I Wish I Had Thought of First. Mini golf club + toddler = Children's Mercy Hospital. But stick a shoe on it and it's less of a weapon, more of an innovative and challenging game. For the record, the Croc provides the most accurate putt.

Hay bale mountain with slide. At some point in the past 3 years, we have scarred Blue with playground slides and while he will climb up, he almost never slides down. Unless he's with one of us. So, just FYI, this slide is a little fast if you're weighing in at 175+ but perfect for the little ones.

Last weekend, we attended a fall festival in Des Moines that included a corn pool. It was, quite literally, an Olympic pool-sized area, full of corn. It was amazing for about 3 minutes and then Blue was bored and his diaper was full of corn. These corn bins are a better size and the center poles with holes lend themselves to experimentation and play.
But still enough corn to bury your friends, if that's on your bucket list.

The barrel train includes a ride through a tunnel, which is a nice touch and a little different from others we've ridden. Although, this train is for kids only. The barrels are "too delicate" for adults so if you have very little ones, they can ride in the lap of older kids or skip this activity.
There is a milking station near the front of the farmstead so I'm not surprised there is one in Pumpkin Hollow, as well. My 3-year old, thanks to Curious George and the Children's Farmstead, can sufficiently milk a cow...y' case this whole Army thing doesn't work out.
The boys loved this game more than I thought they would. Each side has a bucket with about 4 golf balls. There is a hole at the top of the maze and one at the bottom. They had fun "racing" each other and taking bets on whose ball would be first to the bottom. My only concern is that they are golf balls, but y'know...parental supervision.
Where else can you make a toddler-sized chicken lay a half dozen golf balls? Although I'm pretty sure Blue now thinks that chickens poop eggs instead of laying them. We'll save that lesson for another time.

Giant checkers and tic-tac-toe. It took a little while for the boys to make it over to these games and once they did, it only lasted a couple of minutes, but these would be great for the older kids. The biggest checkers set I ever played with as a kid was the one at Cracker Barrel so I'm sure this would have been a hit with Wee Ally.
The corn maze was perfect for younger kids because they could go in alone without getting lost. And yes, there was a minion made out of rolls of hay.
Other games included
 pumpkin hoops with soft, stuffed balls
 a toddler-sized tunnel
 adult-sized stilts...which I couldn't do and I'm going to 100% blame my foot surgeries last spring
 a short hay tunnel
and climbing hay bales

When you are all done, the patch of (already-picked) pumpkins is just past the curtain.
And then you can head to the exit and a wagon will meet you to take you back.

The boys loved Pumpkin Hollow and we stayed a little over an hour. We probably could have stayed longer but it was getting close to lunch and nap time. I have to admit, when I was told it was $8 for games and a pumpkin, I was a bit skeptical. However, a vote on the way home revealed it was Mommy and kid-approved! It is a great deal for a one-time visit and the memories we made with our friends were priceless.
$8 < priceless


  1. That bale mountain slide looks so fun! I wouldn't go down slides by myself when I was little either. Totally get it!

  2. OMG, so many cute attractions for the little ones (and big kids out there!). This looks like a lot of fun--LOL @ chickens pooping eggs. Well, one lesson at a time :) I love the minion made out of hay. So cute!

    Hope all is well with you!! XOXO


That's it, let it all out....